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A very fine vintage Navajo ingot-silver Modernist-style cuff bracelet by The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild, c.1940’s
What we have here is another very beautifully crafted and strikingly modern design from the famed
jewelers of the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild (NACG). A veritable all-star team of silversmiths led by the outstanding Navajo jeweler and influential teacher, Ambrose Roanhorse (1904-1981), The Navajo Guild beginning in the early 1940’s very quickly established a well-deserved reputation for making exceptional quality traditionally-crafted Navajo jewelry with a decidedly modernist design sensibility.
This bracelet is crafted of heavy cast ingot-silver, probably coin silver, and it features a unique and unusual design with a large open central silver medallion. The bracelet is also decorated on either side of the central medallion with very precisely done and restrained stamp and repousee work along both sides of the shank. Such restrained stampwork decoration and primarily all-silver design were signature hallmarks of the Guild’s fine silverwork and this piece shows them off perfectly. The open expanse of the silver, particularly in the unadorned center of the bracelet shows a marvelous understated and elegant restraint and respect for the beauty of the silver itself. To learn more about The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild,
“It sure feel good when you
wear handmade jewelry.”
-Navajo Guild Co-Founder, Ambrose Roanhorse, 1936
The bracelet measures 1 1/4” wide at the widest point tapering down to 3/4” in width at the terminals.
The bracelet’s interior circumference end-to-end is 5 3/4” with a 1 1/4” gap between the terminals for a
total interior circumference of 7”. The bracelet’s silver shank is about 1/16” in thickness and it weighs a substantial, yet comfortable 54 grams or 1 7/8 ounces. The bracelet is in very good original condition for its seven-plus decades of age and it has clearly received a good amount of dedicated wear in its lifetime as it has a dent or two at the edge of the circular central medallion and some scratching here and there and has developed a fine aged patina with the whitish look to the silver characteristic of cast ingot silver pieces.
The bracelet is properly marked on the interior with the word “Navajo” and, interestingly, several stamped impressions of the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild’s “Horned Sun” insignia. Individual makers were not permitted to sign Navajo Guild silver pieces with their own hallmarks, only the Guild’s insignia and the word “Navajo” were permitted so we will never know for certain who made this bracelet, but in our opinions it could very easily have been Ambrose Roanhorse himself; the overall streamlined elegance of the design and quality of the craftsmanship, the “airiness” of the piece, the specific sawtooth stamp work designs and the slightly upturned terminals are all distinct characteristics we have identified in various of his signed pieces.
You can see a fair amount of wear to the stamped in signatures demonstrating how much this bracelet has been worn. In the hand and on the wrist the silver has a fine “soft” feel again attesting to how much it has been loved over time. If you appreciate striking Navajo silverwork and you admire a streamlined elegant classic presentation this is definitely a piece for you to consider. It’s at once historic, modern, extremely wearable and completely compelling.
Ambrose Roanhorse quotation source “The Little Book of Marks on Southwestern Silver” © 2011 by Bille Hougart, TBR International, Washington D.C.
Ambrose Roanhorse, Co-Founder of the Navajo Guild, c. 1950
The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild is still in operation today.
Here is its outlet in Cameron, Arizona.